Zombies of Mora Tau – and -The Man who turned to Stone – 1957

This is another I am not familiar with but came across the title which was reminiscent of the type of ‘Horror’ film we would get in the late fifties.

Apparently it was very much a ‘B’ film – but I often found that such films can be enjoyable and entertaining in the sense that they are mainly focused on telling a straightforward story to a , hopefully, non critical audience because we expect less from it maybe.

This is the story of a group of ‘mad’ scientists all around 200 years old who have been kept alive by tapping the life-force of young girls – something they had discovered long ago. Because they need a constant supply of such women victims, they operate under the cover of running a Women’s Reformatory.

This seems to have been successful for them until a young and observant welfare worker joins the ranks of the staff and soon notices an unusually high number of deaths occurring. Charlotte Austin plays the welfare worker with Victor Jory top of the cast list as one of the scientists.

The story is that if the scientists does not get his ‘youthful fix’ they then turn to stone.

Apparently in the film as it reaches its conclusion, some of the make-up for the ones being turned to stone is not that convincing – maybe the already low budget didn’t run to more expense in that area.

It was definitely not the scariest or the most exciting, nor was the science ever really explained, and in a film like this it does not need to be, but for a B picture, it was entertaining and a nice little chiller that you could easily be watched more than once.

This film went out as a Double Bill with Zombies of Mora Tau (also known as The Dead That Walk

Zombies of Mora Tau told the story of a group of living-dead sailors who, years before, had attempted to steal treasures from an African Idol. These sailors have now the job of guarding the treasure where it is hidden under the sea.

A new expedition led by Gregg Palmer and Joel Ashley come in search of the forbidden gems

Zombies Of Mora Tau is not short on atmosphere. It sets its stall out early on, establishing the island as a dark and mysterious place, where zombies are such a part of the fabric of society that their appearance on the roadside is barely registered by the locals.

It’s version of Africa is brilliantly realised on a budget, it’s sprawling jungle feeling hot and oppressive, but it’s the European cemetery that really impresses. Full of the bodies of the unfortunate previous expeditions to find diamonds, it’s wonderfully creepy and feels like a gothic Universal-style graveyard transplanted into the deepest, darkest jungle. It’s stunning and has all the more impact coming in a film that you aren’t expecting so much from.

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Fifties Television

Television was very much in its infancy during the early fifties with just the One Channel – the BBC of course.

Nevertheless this early Television service gave us some memorable moments – some scary, some funny but mostly welcome and entertaining. After all, we would watch anything then as it was all so new – and it all seemed good.

The Coronation proved a major landmark for TV with live coverage including cameras inside Westminster Abbey which in those days was some feat in view of the big and somewhat clumsy and immobile cameras and also the sheer scale of what was required to give us the outside coverage.

I have before featured that wonderful Technicolor film ‘John and Julie’ made a couple of years later when a two young children decide to run away from home and travel to London to see The Queen being crowned. They have many adventures along the way and we see lovely colour footage of the crowds in London that day.

ABOVE – John and Julie are at this stage making progress

There was also a film made of the Coronation in colour so that cinema audiences could later view it.

Another film made the same year – The Conquest of Everest

Back to TV and who could forget having being scared by The Quatermass Experiment. I remember my Dad would not let my brother and I watch the last episode as he thought it too frightening and he knew that we had been watching the earlier episodes which had clearly alarmed us.

Without doubt the most disturbing serial over 6 weeks this Science Fiction production was written by Nigel Kneale

Then another one – later in the fifties was a very good Detective type series ‘ No Hiding Place

Here we see Raymond Francis and Eric Lander in action in a scene.

I saw Raymond Francis in an old episode of Miss Marple with Joan Hickson the other day – and I do remember Eric Lander appearing on This is Your Life when the subject was Richard Todd in 1988.

He had appeared with Richard in that long running thriller ‘The Business of Murder’ which ran for years at the Mayfair Theatre

On ITV we have ‘The Invisible Man’

The 26 half-hour episodes of the science fiction series “The Invisible Man” were originally broadcast on British ATV during the 1958-1959 season.

It  was very well written,  the special effects were good for  that period, and we got inclusion of some top class British character actors.

I have to say that these comments are from other people as I don’t think I ever saw it.

Although we had a Television very early in the 50s we didn’t get ITV until mush later than other people for some reason.

I remember you had to have a box fitted to the television set with a switch that changed over to ITV – which we didn’t get.

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Lancaster Bomber swoops over Lincolnshire

Last summer, I was priviledged to be in Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, home of the legendary Dam Busters, and this was on the famous 40’s weekend.

To really add to the splendour of the occasion, we were standing in the Main Street and looked up to see the Lancaster do a sweep overhead – it was both a thrilling and an exhilarating moment.  The large crowds just loved it.

Sadly we will not be able to replicate that this year due to the dreaded virus – the 40s weekend is cancelled  – I suppose that it was inevitable but it is still dis-appointing to say the least

Avro Lancaster PA474 “City of Lincoln”, operated by the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, depicted flying over its ‘home’ city with Lincoln Cathedral below.

We are instead posting this picture above as the Lancaster Bomber swoops over nearby Lincoln Cathedraland BELOW a much older picture showing the Lancaster flying low over Hemswell Village.

Hemswell RAF Station is where the famous Dam Busters raid set off from – and then later in the mid fifties onwards it became the home of the Vulcan Bombers and coming right up to date – now the home of the Red Arrows.

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Marguerite Chapman – Film actress

Until I saw the film Kansas Raiders and wrote the last article here, in truth, I had not heard of this film star who was a leading lady in Columbia films of the Forties.

Marguerite Chapman was a beautiful, blue-eyed brunette who looked particularly lovely in colour. She was a former model who virtually learnt to act in front of the cameras, she was at her peak when good film roles became scarce and she turned to television. Later she was to speak with refreshing honesty about the effect her beauty had on such prominent moguls of the period as Howard Hughes and Harry Cohn, who were to help her establish an acting career.

She was born in Chatham, New York, in 1920, and had four brothers – three of them older.  She began her working life as a typist and switchboard operator in White Plains, New York, but, urged on by her friends who praised her beauty, she left her job and went to New York City in search of modelling work. She was hired by the influential John Powers agency, and soon began appearing on magazine covers. “I originally had no intention of becoming an actress,” she said later. “When I began to think of what I would do in the future I decided I might like to become fashion editor for Vogue or something like that.”

Marguerite Chapman’s boyfriend at the time was Sherman Fairchild of Fairchild Aircraft and Cameras, and he was a friend of Howard Hughes, who was an aeroplane enthusiast. Fairchild took Chapman to a party given by Hughes, and shortly afterwards she was told that Hughes wanted her to do a screen test at his Long Island studio – he was looking for an actress to star in a film he was planning, The Outlaw. “It was a visual test, no dialogue. Hughes liked the test, and signed me to a contract with an option.

I arrived in Hollywood on Christmas Eve afternoon, 1939. Hughes had arranged for Pat di Cicco, Cubby Broccoli and Bruce Cabot to squire me here and there.

“When I met Ruth and Hoagy Carmichael, they gave me advice appropriate for a young girl visiting Hollywood for the first time. They told me to keep away from my three escorts and to stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I did everything they told me not to . . .”

She did say that when she arrived in Hollywood just before Christmans 1939 she was ‘lonelier than I had ever been in my life’

She did attend a Warner Brothers New Year Party and met stars like Ann Sheridan, Charles Boyer and Errol Flynn who asked her for a date but she declined as he was married.

After some sessions with a drama coach, Marguerite did a full screen test directed by Hughes. “It was a very ladylike test – it was a scene from an Irene Dunne picture – and afterwards Hughes told me, `You’re too much of a lady for me and too much of a lady for the film. I’m going to send your test to Joe Schenck, chairman of 20th Century-Fox pictures.’ ” Signed by Fox, Chapman was coached at their drama school on the lot, and made her screen debut in On Their Own (1940), one of a series of B movies about the exploits of the Jones family (the studio’s answer to MGM’s enormously popular Andy Hardy films).

She next played a girl reporter in Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum (1940) but after six months her option was dropped. Later the actress stated that the decision may have been affected by something that happened when she first met the studio’s production chief Darryl Zanuck at the night- club Ciro’s. “Zanuck, who was short, asked me to dance. I said, `I’m sorry, I don’t like to dance with men who are shorter than I am.’ That was a mistake.”

Moving to Warners, where she stayed for a year, she played several small roles, notably in The Body Disappears (1941) in which her wealthy fiance discovers her mercenary nature after he is rendered invisible, and the musical Navy Blues (1941) as one of the “Navy Blues Sextet”, a group of glamorous starlets (all former Powers models) who also appeared in morale- boosting short films which were sent to the troops. Leaving Warners, Marguerite had her best role to date as the heroine of Republic’s serial Spy Smasher (1942), based on the Whiz Comics adventure series (“SEE Spy Smasher – as a human tornado – sink the German U-Boat!” promised the ads) with Kane Richmond in the dual role of the costumed hero and his twin brother, both battling a Nazi menace called the Mask.

Few serial heroines successfully made the transition to major features, but Marguerite was the exception. When Columbia signed her, they immediately gave her leading roles in a series of B movies as training for promotion to “A”s. In Parachute Nurse (1942) she was top- billed as a new recruit to a team of nurses who parachute to aid men injured on the battlefield. Variety described her as adequate, adding “though patently a newcomer and a bit awkward”.

Submarine Raider (1942) was another propaganda piece in which, as a shipwrecked heiress, she is picked up by a submarine which then sinks a Japanese carrier to score the navy’s first victory after Pearl Harbor. Appointment in Berlin (1943) was publicised as the first film to deal with a “Lord Haw-Haw” situation, with George Sanders as an apparent traitor broadcasting anti- British diatribes which in fact contain coded messages of vital information. Its pessimistic ending – Sanders, along with a German who aids him (Chapman) and a British spy (Gale Sondergaard) all die – made it unpopular with audiences, while the New York Herald-Tribune chided the film for “its considerable wishful thinking in its glorification of the British Intelligence”.

Marguerite Chapman in a dramatic scene from ‘Appointment in Berlin’

Marguerite was next given her first lead in a major film, Destroyer (1943) starring Edward G. Robinson and Glenn Ford. “With this film, my career finally took off,” said Chapman. “Robinson was a charming man, but I remember that he grew increasingly concerned because he was shorter than I, and he spoke to the director about it. If you look at the film, you’ll notice that I’m sitting down a lot.”

Marguerite’s performance as Robinson’s daughter was well received (“By now, I had done many films and had gone to several drama coaches”) but she was featured in several more B movies before being given the prestigious female lead in Counter-Attack (1945) opposite Paul Muni. Based on a Russian play, Pobyeda, it was almost entirely set in a bombed-out factory’s basement where Russian soldier Muni and Russian guerrilla Marguerite hold off a septet of German soldiers while they await rescue. “A lot of girls had tested for the part of `Comrade Lisa’, including Nina Foch. I went to see the producer Zoltan Korda with no make-up and straggly hair. He said, `You’re just what I want. You look like a boy, but I know there’s a woman underneath all that.’

“The first scene we shot had to be done over again, because I had my hair swept up. Harry Cohn, head of Columbia, had a real thing about hair. He wanted my hair down, and that’s how we did the scene.”

Filmed in 1944, when America was pro-Soviet, but released in the spring of 1945 when, to quote the historian Bernard F. Dick, “Russophobia staged a comeback”, the film did not do well, and a few years later when Muni, his co-star Larry Parks, script-writer John Howard Lawson and Columbia supervisor Sidney Buchman were all named by the House Un-American Activities Committee, the film was used against them.

Marguerite had a welcome change of pace with her next film, Leslie Fenton’s deft comedy Pardon My Past (1945), with Fred MacMurray playing dual roles in a sparkling tale of mistaken identity, Chapman playing the girl who ends up with the worthier of the two MacMurrays. Like most Columbia employees, the actress was not happy with her pay, and later recalled that the night the film was finished she attended a dinner party at Cohn’s house. “I was wearing this cute little dress and Harry asked me where I got it and then asked, `How much did you pay for it?’ In front of the other guests I replied, `I paid $75, my week’s salary. Aren’t you ashamed?’ I always talked like that to Harry. He was always calling me into his office. I think he enjoyed sparring with me.”

One of their discussions was about her name. “Harry always called me Margaret. `My name is Marguerite,’ I told him. `You spend all that money putting me under contract and spelling my name out on marquees, so at least pronounce it right, Uncle Harry.’ `From now on,’ Cohn assured me, `I will always call you Marguerite, Margaret.'”

In Mr District Attorney (1946), based on a popular radio series, Chapman played a murderous gold-digger, then she starred opposite Lee Bowman in a good thriller, The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1946) which suffered from its resemblance to The Maltese Falcon, the sought-after items in this case being two bibles and a painting, with Chapman a beautiful socialite who may not be all she seems. “All I can recall of that film,” said Chapman, “is Lee Bowman refusing to take his hat off in the elevator, which the director did not like. Lee didn’t want to put on his hairpiece.”

A western with Randolph Scott, Coroner Creek (1948), and a roisterous swashbuckler, The Gallant Blade (1948), with Larry Parks, were both filmed in Cinecolor and demonstrated how well the actress’s looks responded to the colour camera.

ABOVE with Larry Parks in The Gallant Blade 1948

They were followed by one of her finest films, Relentless (1948), co-starring Robert Young. Chapman said:

Don “Red” Barry, the western actor, told me that he had found this book Three Were Thoroughbreds, which Gene Rodney and Robert Young were going to produce as a major Technicolor western for Columbia release. Don said, “Marguerite, you’re just right for the tomboyish leading lady.” I thought, “That’s my studio, I’ll push myself”, so I went to see Gene and Bob at Columbia. “If you don’t give me this part,” I said, “I’m going up and tell Uncle Harry.” I had never done anything like that before, but I knew it was a good part. We filmed in Tucson,

Arizona, under George Sherman’s direction, and it turned out to be one of my best pictures. Bob Young was very warm, a real pro, and many years later I appeared on his TV series Marcus Welby, MD, with him.

Though Relentless was a success, it was to end Marguerite’s career at Columbia, and she decided to freelance. At Universal, she co-starred with Audie Murphy in Kansas Raiders (1950), but the following year she was at the budget studio Monogram starring in Flight to Mars (1951) as Alita, a Martian who falls in love with a reporter (Cameron Mitchell) who has crash-landed on her planet with a group of scientists.

In ‘Flight to Mars’ 1951

In 1952 Marguerite Chapman came over to England along with George Brent, whose star was also fading, and made a very good film there – Terence Fisher’s The Last Page, an efficient thriller (called Man Bait in the US). Filming commenced on July 9th 1951 – in a warm English Summer.

During this time she must have met, and a romance ensued between her and Film Producer Anthony Havelock-Allan who at that time had parted and probably was divorced from Valerie Hobson.

Some reports I have read state that Anthony Havelock-Allan had married Marguerite Chapman but I don’t think that was the case.

In London With George Brent in The Last Page
Filming ‘The Last Page’ In Central London – The gardens next to St James’s church between Jermyn Street and Piccadilly in London W1 and the Piccadilly Hotel in the right background.
Here Marguerite Chapman meets Raymond Huntley again the the Church Gardens
Again with George Brent

By 1955 she was playing a supporting role as a secretary in Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch. Since 1951 she had been appearing frequently on television, guest starring in many popular series including Four Star Playhouse, Studio 57, Climax and Perry Mason. She attempted a cinema comeback in 1960, starring in Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Amazing Transparent Man, but the film’s unconvincing special effects (the title character, supposed to be invisible, was often easily seen) doomed it to failure.

Never having set foot on a stage before, Marguerite Chapman began to work in small theatres, and won praise for her portrayal of Sylvia, the bitchy gossip of The Women in a Fort Worth production. One critic praised her “ribald comic flair” while another commented, “Here is another great performer with versatility spilling over in ebullient delight with every line and movement on stage.”

Marguerite enjoyed painting (her pictures have been exhibited at the Beverly Hills Art League Gallery), golfing, and decorating her house in Woodland Hills, California, where she is memorialised by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Two years ago the director James Cameron asked her to audition for the role of the elderly survivor in his film Titanic, but she was too ill to do so. Talking of her Hollywood career, she said recently, “I acted in just about everything possible in those years – `A’s, `B’s, serials, short subjects, even trailers. And I loved every minute of it.”

Marguerite Chapman, actress: born Chatham, New York 9 March 1920; married first Bentley Ryan (marriage dissolved), second Richard Bremerkamp (marriage dissolved); died Burbank, California 31 August 1999.

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Kansas Raiders 1950 – Audie Murphy

This was quite an early film from Audie Murphy and a good Western at that which was on TCM over the last weekend.

Audie Murphy plays a young Jesse James. He and his brother Frank join the Quantrill Raiders gang led by the notorious William Quantrill, played by Brian Donlevy.

Jesse and Frank are motivated to join the group to avenge the deaths of their murdered parents. Both quickly become disillusioned with the senseless violence and the looting of innocent people. The gang’s reputation becomes best known for its bloody attack on Lawrence, Kansas.

Jesse finally realises that this is not the life he wants to lead but stays with Quantrill until the soldiers find them.

Quantrill forces Jesse to leave. Quantrill then faces the Yankee’s gunfire alone and is killed.

Jesse James manages to escape with his own gang and rides off into history.

An action scene from the filmthe bloody and brutal attack on Lawrence Kansas

This was an action packed sequence in the film and a few moments later we have the brutal gunning down of unarmed men Audie Murphy as Jesse James and his Brother Frank are visibly appalled by this murderous act.

He is shocked by this murderous act

Now this is a Double Bill I would have loved to see.  I loved Tap Roots although it is years since I have seen it- a really good film with Boris Karloff as an Indian. Both these films in Technicolor and both exciting productions
Marguerite Chapman here with Audie Murphy
Marguerite Chapman 
Marguerite Chapman 

I did not know this actress at all – however on looking her up she seems to have made quite a lot of films from the early 40s onwards and continued into the late 70’s, so it seems that she had a good career

On looking further she does seem to have had a very interesting and varied life in films – with lots of anecdotes on people she came into contact with over the film years – so much so that my next article on this Blog will be on Marguerite Chapman

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Valerie Hobson marries John Profumo

The date is 31 December 1954 at St.Columba’s Church in Chelsea, London.

Film star Valerie Hobson marries MP John Profumo

All film fans will remember that she  played the slender, virtuous Edith D’Ascoyne in ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ – competing for the hand of Denis Price, against  her suburban rival in the film, played by Joan Greenwood. She had also portrayed  Estella in David Lean’s ‘Great Expectations’, showing a very cold and icy  front to John Mills who played the grown-up ‘Pip’.   Without doubt these were her two most famous roles on screen

In the 1950 s  she played opposite Herbert Lom on the London stage in ‘The King and I’ at the famous Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in the West EndI note from the above that it is billed as a ‘new musical play’ so this must have been one of the first London productions – and on looking further indeed it was and opened in October 1953

I had never associated her with the stage but it seems that she was very much at home there and this was a very big prestigious production. She stayed in her role for quite a few months before deciding to retire from acting to concentrate on her family.

It opened on 8 October 1953 and ran for 926 performances.

I wonder if she regretted this and missed the acting world – my guess is that she would have done. Her first husband Anthony Havelock-Allen, with whom she remained on friendly terms was all his life a Film Produce / Director of some note – so a lot of her life had been connected in one way or another with film life

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David Farrar in Hollywood

These pictures come from the spring of 1951 when David Farrar along with his wife and daughter Barbara, were in Hollywood whilst he was filming ‘The Golden Horde’

He was a film actor who seemed to have a very high opinion of himself which apparently comes over in his Autobiography ‘No Royal Road’ published in 1947 or 1948. I am searching for this book but so far have not been successful in locating a copy. If anyone has one please let me know.

Years before this he ran his own theatre in the Tottenham Court Road and he used to get masses of fan mail. He had a very good career in films in England mainly thanks to Michael Powell and Emric Pressburger who gave him some great parts but later went to America when he would have been 43 years old – he was too late being too old for the leading roles he aspired to like this film.

His is wife Irene died fairly young – but he never re-married.

In fairness to him he did seem to be a real family man devoted to his daughter Barbara and his wife

David Farrar in Hollywood – This was his first Hollywood film and so he took the family there for the few weeks of filming in the spring of 1951 I would guess.

He really does seem a pompous man – with a self-styled aura of superiority – misplaced I am sure. Just who does he think he is !!

Maybe I am a bit harsh here but he just comes over that way sometimes.

Irene his wife pours a nice cup of tea in the morning

Catching up on some paperwork
Listening to daughter Barbara play the piano
Posting a Letter home
Breakfast Time
With trousers like that it is no wonder David Farrar’s career in Hollywood didn’t go better – quite honestly he looks ridiculous
Goodnight to daughter Barbara
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Gun Glory 1957

Here we have Stewart Granger in a Western – I know he did The Last Hunt just before this – but he is not associated with this type of film – probably because he is very English – but I have to admit he was good in this one and to be fair is was a pretty good Western from MGM

On the very impressive wide screen that we all loved and the location filming was really impressive

Seeing GUN GLORY reminds me once again what a pleasure it is to watch Stewart Granger and Rhonda Fleming.

Stewart Granger plays a family man who has become something of a drifter- not to mention a gambler and a gunfighter. He returns home to his ranch after turning away from this life style only to discover that his wife is dead and his son wants nothing to do with him. So he then hires Rhonda Fleming to keep house for him, and she works to bring father and son together.

Rhonda Fleming is, without doubt, a beautiful young lady and once again, she proves she can act as well.

Chill Wills excels as a wise, non judgemental vicar. It really was exquisitely photographed in Metrocolor and Cinemascope.

This is a film that can, for the most part, be enjoyed by all the family which is a bonus.

About the time that this film was made, Stewart Granger and his Wife Jean Simmons, had purchased a 5,000 acre farm in Arizona which should and would have been perfect for them and their small children, but as he himself recalls in his excellent autobiography ‘Sparks Fly Upwards’, the repayments they had to meet on the financing of the ranch meant that both of them had to make film after film which resulted in them being apart for long periods.

The inevitable happened and they went their separate ways, much to the sadness of Stewart Granger – because in my opinion Jean was the love of his life and he remained in love with her until the day he died.

One of the films that Jean Simmons made in that period was ‘Elmer Gantry’ directed by Richard Brooks who she married after her divorce from Stewart Granger – in fact she married him quite quickly afterwards.

Gun Glory was directed by Roy Rowland and his son, Steve was cast in the film as Stewart Granger’s son who had a career as a film actor although not a major one.

A few years before this was probably the best – or one of the best, of Stewart Granger’s films Scaramouche – another in my opinion made just before that was the wonderful ‘King Solomons Mines’

However one of the stars of Scaramouche – the very lovely Eleanor Parker had this to say :-

In 1952 Stewart Granger had starred in Scaramouche and it seems his co-star Eleanor Parker was not exactly a fan of his – she said of him “Everyone disliked this man…. Stewart Granger was a dreadful person, rude… just awful. Just being in his presence was bad. I thought at one point the crew was going to kill him.

However the resulting film was a notable critical and commercial success.

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Konga – Michael Gough and Jess Conrad

This film was made soon after the success of The Horror of the Black Museum which like this one, starred Michael Gough. As we can see from the Poster below Konga features a giant ape seen here on the rampage but the film itself is really carried by a truly wonderful performance from Michael Gough.

This film is incredible in many ways. It has an outlandish story about a scientist played by Michael Gough who returns from Africa having been presumed lost. However during his travels in Africa he has found a botanical secret to growth in humans and other animals through injections of serums made from seedlings brought back from the jungle.

These he injects into a small chimp which he has also brought back from Africa which he seems to use it as some kind of guinea pig After several injections(and murders of people standing in the scientist’s way) the ape grows to epic proportions and brings an end to his creator’s dreams.

Michael Gough is both cruel and unsympathetic in the way he works to his own ends – a part played with aplomb and panache by Michael Gough. There is one scene where he shoots his own cat at close range rather than have it ruin his scientific discovery.

Michael Gough is incredible and his performance is worth a look at the film alone. The other actors are credible and the guy in the ape suit is believable till the last act.

We also have  very large carniverous plants thrown in for good measure and some great dialogue and surprisingly good acting.

There are lots of cliches thrown at us, the audience, in this delightful and fun film which is in Glorious Eastmancolor too!

A taste of the fun below with these Front of House stills from the film

Konga runs amock and shatters the greenhouse in his path

Jess Conrad also starred in this film. What an interesting character he is. He had a brief Pop career and a smallish career in films and Television – and yet he remains very well known and well liked. He spans so many eras and somehow seems to fit in them all

One of the first and best things he ever did when his Pop records started to be successful, was to but a very nice house in Denham Village close to Roger Moore at that time. Jess and his wife still live there.

He also has had a long and happy marriage – another plus !!

He was born Gerald Arthur James on February 24th, 1936 in England. He his youth he was nicknamed “Jesse” after the American outlaw Jesse James. When Conrad began acting there was already an actor named “Gerald James.” A drama teacher who was a fan of actor Joseph Conrad, a Polish-British writer, suggested the stage name of Jess Conrad.

Conrad began his career as a repertory actor, an actor who performs with a regular company, and a film extra. He was cast in a television play, Bye Bye Barney as a pop singer. This led to other television series and to him recording with several record labels. He had several chart hits including “Cherry Pie”, “The Pullover”, “Mystery Girl” and “Pretty Jenny”.

In the 1950’s and 1960′ JessConrad appeared in several films including Serious Charge, for which he is uncredited, The Boys, Rag Doll, K.I.L. 1 and Konga as well as Michael Powell’s The Queen’s Guards.

By the 1970’s Conrad was appearing in musicals on stage as well as beginning to appear in documentaries. Unfortunately at the time his earlier music was falling out of favor with audiences. In 1977, no fewer than 7 of Jess Conrad’s singles were included in the “World’s Worst Record” list. Eventually the list was turned into an album. On the show contestants who did no make the “big break” were given a box set of Conrad’s hits as a “booby” prize.

However Jess, who still looks incredibly young, and still appears on stage

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The Prendergast File

This quite short film is something of a curio but one I was pleased to see very recently  on Talking Pictures – the UK Television channel that is unique in it’s style and understands – as none of the other TV stations seem to do – that there are millions of us out there wanting to see those films of the fifties or before that even – many of them would never have seen the light of day but for Talking Pictures.

The Prendergast File was made in lovely Technicolor showing off the English countryside in summer to its very best advantage with the accent on the canal waterways we have here zig-zagging the country

There is humour thrown in because this is a spoof film from the ‘Ministry of Public Apathy’

Hugh Symons plays Samuel Prendergast, a civil servant in the ‘Department of Constructive Delays’  is sent by the ‘Ministry of Public Apathy’  to investigate the canals and report back with an eye on closure.

The sequence above and below has Samuel Prendergast reading a newspaper whilst standing on the deck of the barge – as we can see  his bowler hat is knocked off under the bridge which he seems to find quite funny

He has to report back on his findings and produce ‘a full report of recommendations which he duly does but it does not fit the brief of ‘inaction’ so his report is discarded

The film ends speculating on the whereabouts of Prendergast, who we seem to think has abandoned his civil service career – and maybe fallen in love with canals !!!

The other actors in the film are Mabel Cunningham, David Hutchings, Harry Barlow and Jack James – and all of these along with William Symons have one thing in common – they were all in this picture but never made another or seemed to appear in any TV programmes either – so their film careers were short lived – but very pleasant

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